As summer draws to a close (I know some of you are thinking that July just ended, but in my world summer is over when we go back to work in early August), it’s time to reflect on a season like no other. The original plan for this summer was to enroll only in the Practicum course, the final requirement for the MA in Gifted Education. This would require spending 2 1/2 to 3 weeks in Greeley teaching in the Summer Enrichment Program (SEP) and living in a dorm. It turns out I was looking forward to that experience.
I hadn’t given much thought to the first part of the summer. I assumed that there would be some travel, but since we were taking a once-in-a-lifetime trip to New Zealand in March (a wonderful, though eventually aborted trip), we hadn’t planned anything. That was just as well, since everything changed in March.
In April, we learned that there would be no SEP as everyone knew it, since on-campus activities were cancelled through (at least) the end of summer. I was dejected as I waited to learn what the options for completing the practicum requirement would be. I have no regular access to students in my day job, and the time I spend teaching teachers was not adequate to meet the course requirements. So I was at the mercy of the universe. The universe (or rather, the program director and the families whose students attend SEP) decided that we would have a scaled-back, online version of SEP in the middle of July.
Preparation, though, started long before that. The four of us who were completing our practica in the online SEP began meeting in late May. We had some helpful, if overwhelming, technical guidance, then had to rework the courses we’d previously designed for in-person instruction to fit an online format. Once that was complete, we were asked to create a five-minute narrated overview of each course for students and families to view. Creating a five-minute slideshow about a course you haven’t yet taught is one thing. Narrating said slideshow while recording—without mistakes—is quite another. This seemingly simple task took large chunks of several days, including a very long evening in a Lawrence, Kansas Hotel on the way back home from visiting my parents.
There was a bit of an easing of the pace after the SEP overviews, allowing us to do some other assignments for the practicum course. I was a little surprised by the amount of additional reading and writing in a practicum course—I expected it to be more focused on the teaching and reflecting.
Eventually, we tackled the Schoology platform and prepared for students. Schoology is fairly easy to use, if a bit clunky. It makes sense as a platform for a wide variety of instructors and students. I struggled to determine how much I could do in a 50-minute course with fifth- through seventh-graders. I was definitely nervous for the first day. I ended up enjoying the first day with the class of five students, though I had far more material than I had time. I adjusted each day, and finally felt like I was starting to get a sense of timing by halfway through the second week.
The biggest surprise for me was how much I enjoyed both the preparation and the teaching. Really getting to put everything we’ve learned in the MA program into action was gratifying. And spending time—even virtually—with bright young people was delightful. So much so that it makes me question what success looks like and to what I should aspire.